GAA Football

Watty Graham's, Glen scoop Irish News best underage initiative award

Watty Graham's GAC, Glen wins the Best Underage Initiative Award at the Irish News School Club and Volunteer awards From left to right: Bronagh Mulholland (Children's Officer and vice-chairperson), Malachy Toner (Wellington Park Hotel general manager) and Sean Keane (chairperson of Watty Graham's, Glen)
Staff reporter

WHEN you think of Watty Graham's, Glen, their unprecedented dominance of the minor and U21 ranks across Ulster immediately springs to mind.

Whether it was St Paul's on New Year's Day or the picturesque setting of Creggan on the shores of Lough Neagh, the Derry club came, saw and conquered.

Enda Gormley's accuracy from the placed ball carried Derry on many occasions and the current Glen senior manager was one of those responsible for the recent footballing renaissance at Watty Graham Park.

Emmett Bradley's impressive showing against Donegal at Celtic Park recently represents the new breed of Glen player to push towards the big stage.

When Derry minors were under the cosh against Dublin in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, Oran McGill put in shuddering tackle that almost shook Croke Park.

Bradley was the club's first Ulster minor winning captain. McGill has been the latest from the underage production line to make it through to senior football in the green and gold.

But it wasn't always like this.

A club that supplied Gormley, Oran's father Gary, Damien and Fergal P McCusker to Derry's golden generation in the 1990s, had slumped into the doldrums.

Despite its considerable population, the Maghera based club were in underage obscurity. In the ‘B' grade at every level and still not even winning titles.

It was time to stake stock and formulate a plan to change their fortunes.

Ten years ago the club decided to take action and adopted a ‘develop the person, not just the player' initiative to improve their fortunes.

“At the start we just wanted to get our structures in place,” outlined Glen Vice-Chairperson Bronagh Mulholland.

“Then it was a case of sitting down at the end of each year to see what went well and what we could change for the next year.”

Glen's focus was more than winning championships. The long-term goal was to bring though as many people as possible.

“It wasn't all about successful players,” Mulholland added.

“We wanted to develop the person. We wanted them to be involved in coaching or they could be the next Chairman or Secretary. Get people involved in Scór and we wanted to produce people who could be pillars of the community.”

At the start of every season, the club holds an information night for parents, players, current and potential coaches. A charter is drawn up and shared for each age group with a focus on athletic development.

“All our coaching is based on the 4 ‘A' principle,” Mulholland added.

“Attendance, Attitude, Application and Ability. It is specifically in that order with ability as the last one.”

Ten years on, Glen's senior football and camogie teams are top of their respective leagues, backboned from the U10s and U12s that benefitted from getting the ball rolling a decade ago.

“We want them to concentrate on their own development, but it is great to see they have bought into the club as a whole.

“At the start it was myself and Damien McCusker who were taking the summer scheme. Now it is the players who have come on board to take leading roles.

“There is a rota among the senior players to help coach the underage teams. The U12 blitzes will be starting up now for the summer and they will all take their turn.”

After being recognised by this latest Irish News awards scheme, Mulholland is satisfied with the progress made by the club.

“Yes, to date, the plan has worked – we have developed the person and the player.”

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